On the heels of the US Men’s National Soccer Team’s strong performance at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, you can bet Major League Soccer (MLS) is now laser-focused on taking advantage of that momentum and growing US interest in both the game of soccer and MLS itself in the coming weeks and months. But how can the league make the most of the excitement that the USMNT generated in Brazil, which resulted in record TV and online streaming figures and huge social media traffic, and keep that momentum going for the long term?
First and foremost (and most obviously), the league’s teams should feature the USMNT players currently playing on MLS clubs at every opportunity. This goes for all MLS teams, not just those lucky enough to have multiple USMNT players on their rosters. For example, Sporting KC, the home club for both Graham Zusi and Matt Besler, should be focusing on those players even more than usual in their upcoming marketing and sales campaigns… but so should the teams Sporting KC is scheduled to play on the road over the next few months (Columbus, New England, New York, etc.).
True, sometimes it’s seen as bad form for a team to promote its opponent’s players. However, in this case, all MLS clubs should be trying to appeal beyond their die-hard fan bases to newer fans whose first exposure to soccer may have been the World Cup.
This leads to my next suggestion: MLS teams should be going beyond their databases now more than ever. Though it’s an accepted fact that a team’s best leads are consumers that have already touched their brand in some way (visited the team website, purchased a ticket, signed up for a newsletter, etc.), now is the time to appeal to new fans. To do this, teams should purchase lists from data resellers (like Turnkey!) of local/regional individuals who, say, watch sports on TV but don’t necessarily consider themselves ‘soccer fans’. Teams could further refine their list criteria by including demographics (ideally obtained from MLS) on who was tuned in to the US’ World Cup games (i.e., viewers’ gender, age, marital status, etc.).
My hunch is that such a list might include people like my husband and me, who aren’t avowed MLS fans but were glued to the World Cup, and would certainly consider attending our local MLS team’s games if we knew we’d have a chance to watch players like Clint Dempsey or DeAndre Yedlin compete. Then, of course, it would be up to our local team to make sure the product in the stadium and on the field was appealing enough to keep us coming back… but getting us in the door is the critical first step to jump-starting that process.
Another way to reach potential new fans like my husband and I (i.e., sports fans who routinely purchase tickets to professional sporting events in our city, and were tuned in to the World Cup) would be to partner with other local professional teams. Perhaps our local MLS club could pair up with the Phillies and run an email-based ticket special that goes out to the Phillies database and packages, say, tickets to one Phillies game (at which a USMNT player will be spotlighted/honored/etc., or at which the promotions/activities are soccer- or World Cup-themed) and one Philadelphia Union game featuring a visiting USMNT player. Again, I know teams often aren’t overly eager to partner with (or even recognize) in-market competition, but in this case, I think it would behoove MLS clubs to reach as many sports fans as possible as they race to convert World Cup enthusiasm to MLS fandom.